The elderly taxi driver shook his head. "The Beaumont? Nah, mate," he said, "there's no hotel up there. The street near Selfridges? No. There's the Marriott in Duke Street. That what you had in mind?"
It was useless to remonstrate with this vintage cabbie. I just waited as he turned off Grosvenor Square, went up Duke Street, turned left into the problematic milieu of Brown Hart Gardens. Where, gratifyingly, I heard him say: "Bloody Nora! What have they done?"
"They" are Chris Corbin and Jeremy King and what they've done is give London a new five-star hotel, immaculately got up in late-1920s style, with the curious addition of a giant, white Lego-style figure attached to the exterior. The site was once a garage, built by Wimperis & Simpson architects in 1926, but there's been a façade there for years.
As London foodies know, Corbin & King have a fetish for the swish, geometric designs of 19th-century Mitteleuropean restaurants from Paris to Budapest. Walk into their gastro-citadels, the Wolseley, the Delaunay, the Colbert and you can practically hear the accordion and zither music.
For their first hotel, they have brought American Art Deco to the decor and fittings. Jeremy King likes to construct a narrative to explain his restaurants. With his hotel, the story is about a fictional New York hotelier, Jimmy Beaumont, whose fortunes in 1926 are falling foul of Prohibition. He tells his guests he's leaving the hotel business. "No!" cry the guests, "Go to London and recreate a Manhattan hotel there."
Drive in to The Beaumont's sweeping frontage and you marvel at its cream-black starkness and its four Art Deco pineapple lamps. Inside, the lobby is all gleaming, black and white diamond marble tiles, burnished-wood walls and cream armchairs. The reception desk is somewhere to the right, but your impulse is to head straight into the American Bar. It's a thing of wonder: intimate and darkly sexy, with a vast ceiling rose and chandelier. The walls are covered in monochrome studio shots of film stars from the 1920s and 1930s. The round tables are small and the chairs comfy, but the booths will be fought over.
Walk into the Colony Grill Room, and you're pitched back to the Twenties: the walls are covered in friezes celebrating fast cars, planes, birds and fast women. Burgundy-red booths, backlit behind diners' heads, are both snug and opulent. Shelves of glasses in the corners reflect the lights, which also bounce off salvers and glass domes. The food is classic American grill – tasty if not madly sophisticated, except when it comes to such classic dishes as Baked Alaska.
En route to your room, you stand by the lifts and marvel at a single detail. The floor indicator isn't a light; it's a naked arrow that sweeps semi-circularly around the figures, like in Some Like It Hot. It's a reminder of the crazily perfectionist detail which Corbin & King bring to their gracefully retro productions.
Selfridges is one block away, north. Brown Hart Gardens is ringed by Peabody Buildings – blocks of flats worth half-a-million apiece – and underground garages. Commanding the centre of the gardens is an odd rectangular structure with huge, iron-studded gates. Londoners used to believe it housed Queen Victoria's elephant collection. The truth is mundane: in the 19th century, it was an electricity sub-station.
There are 50 rooms, 13 studios and 10 suites – one of which is ROOM, the one-off Lego-esque feature designed by Sir Antony Gormley. Basic rooms are graceful Art Deco pastiche: elephant's-breath grey walls and carpet with black lintels contrast with warm macassar-ebony-veneered furniture. Photographs evoking late 1920s glamour line the walls. The lacquered desk shines with a sexy glow; its drawers reveal a Nespresso machine, a white tea service, a safe, a mirror and mini-fridge of juice, wine and milk.
The bathroom is a dream: marble bath, pale-green opaque glass doors to lavatory and shower, posh toiletries from Dr Harris of St James. It's the details you'll love here: the sculpted chocolates bearing the image of the hotel, the silver soap dish, the shiny silver seam round the duvet cover. I liked the entry under "Wake-up Call" in the services brochure. It says: "There is an alarm clock in the room." (An old-fashioned one at that, with hands that point at numbers.)
The basement spa, salon and gym are small but classy, offering hammam massages on heated marble tables, exfoliations and shiatshu facials. The steam, sauna rooms, plunge pool and environs look fabulous. The basement was deserted when I visited, but I can imagine it packed out over the Christmas period with exhausted Oxford Street shoppers.
The Beaumont, Brown Hart Gardens, London W1K 6TF (020 7499 9499; thebeaumont.com)
Double rooms start at £395, including breakfastReuse content